Thin with prominent cheekbones, a baritone voice, and a penchant for gloomy poetics, Peter John Joseph Murphy (born 11 July 1957) is an English singer and musician. He was the vocalist of the rock group Bauhaus and later went on to release a number of solo albums, such as Deep and Love Hysteria.
Daniel Ash convinced Murphy to join Bauhaus, one of the establishing acts of the goth movement. Their use of spacey recording effects and theatrical aesthetics was evocative of glam rock; they became an influential group in the early days of gothic rock. In 1983, Bauhaus appeared during the opening sequences of the horror film The Hunger, performing one of their most popular songs, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead“. The camera focused almost exclusively on Murphy during most of the scene, panning only briefly to the stars David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve. Bauhaus reformed in 1998 for a tour.
By 1983, Bauhaus had broken up and Murphy went on to new projects not involving Bauhaus members Kevin Haskins, David J or Daniel Ash. After some brief dabbling with acting and dance – including a slightly odd televised performance to Bauhaus’s “Hollow Hills” – he formed Dalis Car with Mick Karn, the bass player from Japan. The group recorded only one album.
After Dalis Car’s lack of commercial success, Murphy’s first solo album, Should the World Fail to Fall Apart, was similarly overlooked. Should the World Fail to Fall Apart did spawn several singles, including a cover of Pere Ubu‘s “Final Solution” that made a minor splash on the club scene.
The follow up, Love Hysteria, was not successful in UK although in the US it performed better than his previous solo releases. The albums also marked the beginning of a long-term collaboration with songwriter Paul Statham, who co-wrote songs with Murphy until 1995. The resulting singles “All Night Long” and “Indigo Eyes” helped garner a wider following, and the black-and-white video for “All Night Long” entered rotation on MTV.
The pinnacle of Murphy’s solo popularity in the US came with the release of Deep. For this album Murphy sported hair dyed platinum blonde and returned to the more aggressive alt-rock sound that was a trademark of early Bauhaus. The single “Cuts You Up” from Deep held on to the top spot on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart for longer than any previously released single, displacing “So Alive” by his former Bauhaus-bandmates Love and Rockets. The record was unbroken until the release of REM‘s “Losing My Religion“.
influences into the music while continuing the sound pioneered on Deep.
In 1995, Murphy embraced a lower-key, ambient pop sound for Cascade, featuring producer Pascal Gabriel, guest work from “infinite guitarist” Michael Brook, and overall a much stronger incorporation of electronics. This album was also to be his last major collaboration with Paul Statham, who departed to form Peach with Pascal Gabriel and eventually write songs for Dido and Kylie Minogue. Cascade was also Murphy’s last original release for Beggar’s Banquet records, which had been his label since Bauhaus. Shortly after this departure, Murphy recorded the Recall EP for the newly formed Red Ant records, featuring a few new songs and some new, heavily electronic versions of older material, reworked in conjunction with Sascha Konietzko, Bill Rieflin and Tim Skold of the band KMFDM. Once again, he became label-mates with former Bauhaus alums Love and Rockets, who had also signed to Red Ant. This generated a significant number of rumours regarding a possible reformation of Bauhaus. While Red Ant quickly folded, Bauhaus did reform in 1998 for the Resurrection tour, one performance of which (at the Hammerstein Ballroom, New York City) was recorded and released on DVD by Metropolis Records as Gotham. The tour was a success.
In 2000, Murphy performed his international Just for Love tour, which resulted in the album aLive Just for Love. It is a live recording of the fully uninterrupted set from the El Rey show in Los Angeles on 30 November 2000. During the tour, Murphy chose to perform with only two back-up musicians, Canadian electric violinist Hugh Marsh and Peter DiStefano from Porno for Pyros on guitar, although former Bauhaus bassist David J sometimes joined the trio for an encore. At this point he also contributed to works by film composer Harry Gregson-Williams.
Also in 2000, Murphy gave a nod to the North American goth scene, where his solo works and his works with Bauhaus are still popular, by making a surprise guest appearance at the sixth annual Convergence festival in Seattle, to perform a low-key, acoustic solo set.
Shortly thereafter, Murphy collaborated with the Turkish artist Mercan Dede on the album Dust. Heavily steeped in traditional Turkish instrumentation and songwriting, coupled with Dede’s trademark atmospheric electronics, the album showed Murphy all but abandoning his previous pop and rock incarnations. Dust, released on goth/industrial stalwart label Metropolis Records, alienated many fans who had expected a more uptempo Murphy album (especially post-Recall), but it garnered some critical praise. Peter Murphy considers it his most unusual work to date and is most proud of the song “Your Face” from the album.
In 2004, Murphy signed to yet another new label, Viastar, which was home to several other 1980s pop artists who had moved into more eclectic areas. Despite numerous problems with the label, the album Unshattered was released, showcasing Murphy returning to a more pop sound.
Murphy undertook extensive tours of Europe and the US to promote Unshattered in 2005, with a live band featuring guitarist Mark Thwaite of The Mission and Tricky on guitar, Jeff Schwartoff of Human Waste Project and Professional Murder Music on bass and Justin Bennett of Skinny Puppy on drums. Murphy and the band reconvened in November 2007 for shows in Portugal and Spain, with Nick Lucero replacing Bennett on drums. In May 2008 Murphy recorded a cover of the song “Warm Leatherette” with Trent Reznor and Jeordie White from Nine Inch Nails. This was played live at an intimate studio performance, and the video recording was released on both the official Nine Inch Nails website and on YouTube.
In 2009 Murphy appeared at shows across the United States with Reznor, and the band members Reznor had for the ‘Lights in the Sky Over North America 2008’ tour. He also appeared with Nine Inch Nails on in August 2009 at Terminal 5 as special guest musician. Additionally, he appeared with Nine Inch Nails on 28 and 29 August at the Aragon Ballroom.
Throughout 2009, Murphy released a series of cover songs exclusively through iTunes. The released songs are “Instant Karma!” (originally by John Lennon), “Space Oddity” (originally by David Bowie), “Transmission” (originally by Joy Division), and “Hurt” (originally by Nine Inch Nails). In support of these releases, Murphy underwent an international tour entitled “The Secret Covers Tour”. During this time, an additional cover song, Soul of the World, was released through his official website.
The spring of 2010 saw the cancellation of what would have been a 100-date world tour with Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance. Murphy cancelled due to unexplained health issues, which yielded negative reactions from Perry.
In August 2010, on a video blog on his MySpace page Murphy announced that he was once again going to be working with Mick Karn on a second Dalis Car album, adding this would be the first time they had seen each other since 1983. Several months prior to this announcement, Karn had been diagnosed with stage-4 cancer. The recording session took place in September 2010; however, because of Karn’s increasingly severe illness, they only managed to record four songs during the session. Karn succumbed to his illness 4 January 2011. According to the biography on Karn’s website, the four songs the duo recorded will be released as an EP later in 2011.
In February 2011 Murphy announced a 29-date tour across North America to support his upcoming album Ninth, released in June 2011. Murphy released the song “I Spit Roses” as a digital single through online retailers in March 2011, as well as single “Seesaw Sway” that May.
Starting in April 2013 Murphy toured Europe and the U.S. on the Mr Moonlight Tour, celebrating 35 years of Bauhaus, with longtime guitarist Mark Thwaite, drummer Nick Lucero and bassist Emilio DiZefalo-China. He later replaced guitarist Mark Thwaite (who left the band in September 2013) with Andee Blacksugar in October, who finished out the remaining tour dates in China, Russia, Australia and New Zealand.
In June 2014, Murphy released his 10th studio album Lion and has also announced the imminent release of a live DVD and 10″ EP of his recent “Mr Moonlight” tour, which can be pre-ordered via Pledge Music. A video of the first single off Lion entitled “Hang Up” was released. Murphy has also just announced extensive touring plans across North America in support of the new album.
In June 2015 Peter Murphy released Remixes From Lion– a companion piece to last year’s tenth solo album Lion that was produced by Killing Joke bassist Martin Glover who is listed as “Youth” on the Lion album. This release includes “Youth” remixes of songs from Lion as well as 4 bonus songs from the Lion recording sessions. Murphy describes the “Lion” material as “a mixture of stuff, almost like operas for the dispossessed. Its’ very romantic and very deep and emotional, quite symphonic in places, but then becomes, like, a rabble-rousing pirate sea shanty.”
2016 saw Murphy out on the road again touring the US for his “Stripped” tour. Performing as a three piece ensemble, with Emilio “Zef” China on bass and electric violin and Nena guitarist John Andews, pared down arrangements of his songs from throughout his career. An intimate, yet powerful portrayal where Murphy’s voice and stand out songwriting were the stars, fans flocked to shows across the US in an almost completely sold out tour.